How long can cats go without food?

How long can cats go without food? Cats are resilient creatures, and we frequently hear of cats that were believed to be lost returning home after days, if not weeks, of apparently surviving on their own. Alternatively, some cats may abruptly refuse to eat their regular pet food, refusing to eat it whenever you place it down for them. As a consequence, you may be wondering how long cats can go without food. Whiskas investigates how long a cat can go without food in this article. 

How long can cats go without food?

The average cat can technically survive without food for one to two weeks if they have access to water. However, without protein, it may take closer to three to four days, even if they drink enough water. Without access to water or food, a cat is unlikely to survive more than three days. It is critical to emphasize that when it comes to cat health, a cat that has gone two days without food can become malnourished and ill, possibly requiring emergency veterinary care. All cats need consistent food and access to freshwater to remain happy and healthy.

You should not assume that your cat will be able to fend for itself and catch its food if necessary. While many domestic cats are capable of hunting and catching mice, birds, squirrels, and other small animals, not all cats have the ability to forage for food on their own. Domestic cats frequently develop an expectation of being fed at specific times, and if this does not occur, they may not seek out an alternate food source. 

Why has my cat stopped eating?

Although cat behavior is not always understood, if your cat has recently stopped eating, there could be a few possible explanations, including:


When cats are ill, they frequently stop eating. If your cat appears unwell and is vomiting, lethargic, or has a fever, seek immediate veterinary attention.

Dental problems

Eating can be painful if you have a sore tooth or inflamed gums. If your cat appears unwilling to eat, chews on only one side of their mouth, or will not allow you to touch their head or mouth, they may require a dental examination.

Upset Stomach

If your cat has consumed something that did not agree with them, they may refuse to eat for some time until they recover. If your cat vomits or has diarrhea, this may indicate that they have consumed something it should not have. In case, the vomiting continues and their appetite does not return to normal after a few days, plan an appointment with a veterinarian to rule out a more severe problem.


Occasionally, medication or vaccinations for cats can cause cats to lose their appetite. If your cat has been given medication, be sure to discuss any side effects with your veterinarian.


Stressful life events, such as moving, new additions to the household, or changes in routine can cause cats to stop eating. 


Cats can be fickle when it comes to food, and your cat may decide that they no longer enjoy a particular brand or type of food. Additionally, it is natural for a cat to refuse a meal or two on occasion simply because they are not hungry. 

What happens if a cat doesn’t eat?

Cats require nutrients to survive, which they obtain through food and water. If cats stop eating or cannot find food that contains enough protein, this can result in hepatic lipidosis, a potentially fatal liver condition if left untreated. Because cats’ livers are incapable of supporting their bodies the same way that dogs’ and humans’ do, this process can occur very quickly. The cat’s organs will also begin to shut down as a result of continued starvation.

Worrying About a Cat Refusing Food

​Cats are renowned for their ability to conceal illness or underlying disease. This reduces the amount of time available to cat owners to address the issue significantly if it has progressed unnoticed. A change in appetite is typically the most reliable indicator of a cat’s health status.

Generally, a cat can survive for about a week without food. However, their survival rate may be as low as three to four days for some of them. This is because their livers are not intended to sustain their bodies for an extended period, surviving solely on the body’s stored energy.

​What If a Cat Goes Hungry For A Long Period?

It can be hard to determine when to take the cat to the veterinarian to determine what is wrong when the cat refuses to eat. However, it would help if you always kept in mind that starving them for extended periods may cause more harm than what is already occurring within their bodies.

It is dangerous for a cat to go hungry for an extended period. This is because, in addition to any disease that may be preventing them from eating, hunger causes them to develop hepatic lipidosis – or more commonly known as fatty liver disease. A fatty liver disease is a prevalent form of liver disease in cats. It occurs as a result of an abnormal accumulation of fat within the liver’s cells and tissues. If left untreated, it may worsen and eventually result in liver and biliary tract dysfunction and ultimately death.

How does being hungry related to fatty liver?

When a kitten goes an extended period without eating, the body’s fat cells are processed and broken down for energy. This is the typical and common response of the majority of animals to starvation. The metabolized fat is packaged with protein and transported to the body’s cells via the bloodstream.

However, if the animal does not eat, there will be insufficient protein to accompany the fat. As a result, fat gathers in the liver, impairing its function. The resulting liver dysfunction will make the cat even less likely to eat, and the cat will become even sicker.

Hepatic lipidosis has two types:

When cats stop eating for no apparent reason, this is referred to as idiopathic HL. This is typically triggered by stress caused by a change in diet, relocation to a new environment, the addition of a new family member, or even the death of a companion. Cats are accustomed to their environment, and any changes cause extreme stress.

Secondary HL occurs due to an underlying disease or health condition, such as diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, pancreatitis, or cholangiohepatitis. These diseases impair the cat’s appetite, resulting in anorexia and progressing to Hepatic lipidosis.

Why Does My Cat Refuse To Eat?

There can be a range of possible reasons for your cat’s food refusal. It is not always due to illness. They, like us, make choices about when and what to eat. & they occasionally attempt to bury their food as well. Nonetheless, there may be several reasons for their disinterest in their meal:

  • ​Sickness
  • ​Food lacking flavor
  • ​Pain during eating
  • ​Side effects of medication or vaccination
  • ​Stress

How To Make My Cat Eat More?

Nature and the cat’s instincts know what is healthy for them, so at the outset of the situation, observe and attempt to understand why they are not eating. Cats should not go hungry for more than 24 hours. If they do not eat within that time frame, take them to the veterinarian for a thorough examination. Before you do, here are some suggestions for making mealtime more appealing.

  • ​ Slowly introduce food: This is especially important if he is on medication or has recently received a vaccination. Allow them to consume their food gradually.
  • Alternate foods: Wet cat food has a more significant flavor profile than dry cat food. Alternate between dry and wet diets or combine the two to enhance the flavor of the dry foods. However, never put a cat on a diet or make dietary changes without consulting a veterinarian.
  • Restore equilibrium to the environment: Feed them in a private, quiet area where they can eat quietly. Allow him to consume food at his own pace.

How can I get my cat to eat?

If your cat has lost their appetite due to a medication side effect, you may need to be patient. Allow them to savor their food and reward them for eating. If you believe your cat is stressed, try to create a peaceful eating environment for them. Utilize familiar bowls and food to entice them to eat and keep other pets and children away while they eat.

If you’ve ruled out any underlying health problems or stress, your cat may require a change in diet to resume eating. Over a week, gradually introduce small portions of the new food into their old food until they eat entire amounts. Consider providing your cat with small pieces of chicken or tuna to encourage them, but always ensure that these are adequately prepared and contain no small bones, oils, additives, or flavorings that could make your cat ill.

If your cat remains refusing to eat, you notice that they are losing weight, or you have any other concerns about them, always take them to the vet. 

Frequent Asked Questions

What do you feed a cat that denies eating?

If your kitty refuses to eat, you can supplement their diet with kitten food like this. Alternatively, heat the food in the microwave for a few seconds. They might enjoy spicy food.

For how long can your cat go without eating after the surgery?

After surgery, a cat may go between 24 and 48 hours without eating. Typically, following surgery, your cat may exhibit mild aggression, crankiness, and an upset stomach due to the anesthesia. They may not feel good enough to eat during that time.

Is it okay for a cat not to eat after surgery?

Yes. It is natural for a cat to be unable to eat following surgery. However, if it exceeds three days, I would recommend consulting with a local veterinarian.

Why is my cat not drinking or eating for three days?

Anorexia, more commonly referred to as loss of appetite, can occur when your cat goes three or more days without eating or drinking. It is probable for them to go three days without eating if they have recently had surgery. If there are no apparent causes, you may wish to consult a veterinarian immediately.

A 14 year older cat not eating or drinking; why?

There can be a range of possible explanations for a 14-year-old cat not eating or drinking, but not restricted to loss of appetite, kidney or liver problems, and so on. Would you please consult a veterinarian in your area?


Apart from illness, stress, and environmental factors that contribute to cats refusing to eat, there may be situations when we are forced to leave them alone or without supervision. These situations may result in them running out of food and water. Knowing how long they can go without food enables you to work on your plans as your cat’s human. See also Can Cats Eat Chocolate?